The Chorister at the Abbey by Lis Howell

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The Chorister at the Abbey by Lis Howell

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Category: Crime
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Linda Rutledge
Reviewed by Linda Rutledge
Summary: This is a classic contemporary whodunit which jogs along nicely. The story is well constructed and includes some ingenious twists. Lis Howell develops some interesting characters who, on top of solving a murder mystery, have to struggle with alcoholism, bereavement, step parenthood and teenage angst.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 256 Date: June 2008
Publisher: Soho Constable
ISBN: 978-1569475089

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After the battered body of Morris Little is discovered in the college music department, two notorious local brothers are quickly arrested near the scene of the crime and make a drunken confession. Of itself that would not make much of a story but in true whodunit style there is more.

Alex, together with Tom Firth a choral singer, were the first to come across the body. Although traumatised by the discovery they soon realise that a Psalter that had been with the body has since disappeared. Alex teams up with friends Edwin Armstrong, the deputy head of the music department, and Robert Clark and Suzy Spencer to set about some collective sleuthing into the mysterious disappearance of the ancient Psalter.

Set in a small country town in the north of England the four friends soon discover a link between some local history research that Morris had been compiling and a derelict convent in the village. Then a series of bizarre and violent accidents befall members of the Norbridge Abbey Choral society, whilst in or passing the convent. Their fates seem to be linked to passages from the Psalms. Is there a religious serial killer in their midst or is it all coincidence?

The story centres on the investigations by the four main characters but it is set in a small close-knit community and, in true soap fashion, everyone knows everyone else and all seem to be related or otherwise connected in some way. Having decided the method of investigation should be to include all possible suspects, no matter how improbable, it would seem the whole village falls under the veil of suspicion.

While piecing together the strange goings on the four friends also have to resolve their romantic relationships which seem to suffer from as many twists and turns as the mystery they are attempting to solve.

The easy writing style draws the reader in and you feel you are actually sitting round the kitchen table with our detectives helping to piece together the clues; although at times I did wonder if I was one step ahead of them. Nevertheless the story has a wonderful climatic ending which I didn't see coming.

The Chorister at the Abbey is the second in the Norbridge Chronicles Murder Mysteries series and from the outset I had the feeling that some of the groundwork to laying down the characters in this novel had been done in the first work. Whilst this did not detract from my enjoyment of this book, it did take me a while to get to grips with some of the shared history and relationships between the characters.

For those who are interested in religious matters there are notes at the back of the book explaining a little about the Psalms and the versions quoted in the book. Although this was interesting to read I did not feel this extra information was essential for the understanding of the tale. Having said that, each chapter is headed by a quote from Psalms which I had difficulty reconciling with what actually took place in that chapter so maybe I should have read the notes first!

All in all a thoroughly enjoyable read and perfect for taking on holiday. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

Further reading suggestion: If you like the sound of this book then another contemporary rural whodunit you may enjoy reading is The Chemistry of Death by Simon Beckett.

Buy The Chorister at the Abbey by Lis Howell at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Chorister at the Abbey by Lis Howell at Amazon.co.uk


Buy The Chorister at the Abbey by Lis Howell at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Chorister at the Abbey by Lis Howell at Amazon.com.

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